Written by David C. Williams
I wonder why so many of our life-long and devoted church members and their families forget the church when obituaries are prepared?
The older I get, the more frequently I read the obituaries page in my local newspaper, and I observe many testimonies to the lifelong membership and leadership by the deceased to one of our UCC churches. I see reports of offices held, and acts of devotion listed; I see 50, 60 and 70 years (sometimes more) of sacrificial participation noted. I thank God for that person, whether I knew him or her, or wished I had.
In the next to last paragraph of the obituary I note when and where the funeral or memorial service will be held, and how the local pastor will be officiating. Finally, I read, "In lieu of flowers memorial gifts may be madeÉ" to a whole variety of good philanthropic organizations. However, that congregation which was reportedly so important in that person's life too often is conspicuously absent from the list. No "memorial moneys" for the congregation he/she served so faithfully?
I wonder why?
I wonder why such a person, now deceased, didn't make intentions clear to the family while still alive? I wonder if their grieving family just forgot? I wonder if the funeral director, or the pastor, thought it inappropriate at such a time to "ask" for money? I wonder why everyone involved missed a wonderful opportunity to celebrate a loved one's life with one more act of devotion, with a generous financial contribution to enhance the mission and ministry of the church of Jesus Christ?
For those of us who love the church, and care deeply about assuring a vital ministry and mission in the generations to come, I hope and pray that my raising the question might just raise our collective conscience to change this behavior. Thus, in a very simple way, you and I may act to inspire greater generosity in our midst!
Ironically, as I was writing this column, I opened the Manchester (N.H.) Union Leader on Nov. 4, and just to prove me wrong or in some obscure way on target, there in a bold, boxed obituary was the announcement of the death of a 96-year-old lifelong UCC member and outstanding church leader. In his early years, he had served as a deacon, Sunday School teacher, and search committee member. In his later years, he had devoted many hours to the restoration and maintenance of his church. Furthermore, he donated the land adjacent to the church for a new addition, and he was instrumental in the fundraising to build the church's fellowship hall.
Bless my soul, the words in the final paragraph were precisely: "In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial donations be made to ..." that faithful member's UCC church in New Hampshire, and the address was spelled out precisely, and it was the only charity named. To put my money where my mouth is, I sent a check to that church.
In that very simple way, that wonderful family prompted my generosity in their testimony of his faith-filled and generous life.
The Rev. David C. Williams is the stewardship and planned giving associate for the UCC's New Hampshire Conference. For many years, he was the lead organizer for the New England Conference on Mission.